Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a special celebration of St. Peter and his successors, the Popes. The Catholic Church is built upon this tradition and rejoices in the history of the papacy. Let us take a look at the one Church, how it looked to Peter and to us today.
St. Peter was a normal person. He was impetuous, un-educated, fearful, over-zealous, often said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and usually was slow to understand Christ’s words to him. Yet, despite all, this Jesus loved him. He chose Peter as a leader despite his inadequacies. He gave him a position that he did not give to any other apostle, not even the educated Matthew or the beloved John. To Peter is given a responsibility and legacy that no other apostle can claim. Even when Jesus knew he would leave him in his time of suffering, he still gave to him “the keys of the kingdom.”
Peter was the leader of a church consisting of twelve bishops, a few men and women disciples, most of whom fled during Jesus’ Passion. The geography of the Church covered a small area of the world, consisting mostly of an area called Galilee. There were no parishes, no altar society groups, and no written rites. They preached the gospel to people through word of mouth and letters. Most of the people who followed Peter died a martyr’s death. Peter himself died upside down on a cross like his Savior.
Today in the Church
Today, the Church is a world-wide organization. St. Peter is still among present in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI is one link in an unbroken chain leading back to the original pope, St. Peter. He was elected by an entire conclave of cardinals who gathered from all over the world. There were 1.1 billion Catholics world-wide in 2008. There are roughly 219,714 Catholic parishes in 168 countries. Parishes, large and small, cover the globe to minister to the needs of thousands of communities. The gospel is spread via preaching, written word, Internet sites, chat rooms, text messages, television stations, radio, pod-casts, etc. The Church is the home for men and women of every way of life.
The Holy Father is the person responsible for the welfare of all these souls. In the past, the faithful were constantly urged to pray for the Holy Father, his health and intentions. Let us remember to pray for Pope Benedict, for his continued health and intentions as he carries the burden of Peter, the souls of the world.
To read more facts on the Church: look up www.culturalcatholic.com/CatholicFunFacts.htm.
“It is on Peter that He builds the Church, and to him that He entrusts the sheep to feed. And although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, thus establishing by His own authority the source and hallmark of the Church’s unity.” – St. Cyprian of Carthage